(Photography by L. Underwood, with thanks)

Tonight we have the annual Club-Branch Dinner. The fancy affair explained a few days ago, which used to take place at a local restaurant but has moved to the Clubhouse.

There was some difficulty in setting it up. As the former Club Secretary, I had a good email-based relationship with the events people at the nearby village hall, and the church. The new Secretary, a lovely chap who was absorbed into the job because his friends got him drunk and told him he’d just have to come to meetings and knock out Minutes once a month, has now got my Secretary folder. It’s enormous. It’s almost as big as me. As such, he hasn’t quite got through it, and therefore, I’m still in communication with the church and village hall.

The reason for this cross-village conversation is entirely because we’re in a small area.

Whenever any of our local venues has an event, we reaffirm our friendships, which may only exist in the ether and the fibre optic, and let each other know so that the other venues avoid the date we’ve chosen to rock this small green hamlet.

It’s obvious really. If two venues in a small locale have differing events on the same day, the potential attendees have a difficult decision to make, feeling may be hurt, and, good lord – marriages could curdle, if they have to choose between us. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

In any case, two events at the same time in the same village translates as reduced attendance and less money. If we’re honest, these events are usually created as a means to raise funds.

So, long story short-ish, some months back, I got on to the church and the village hall. The date I had been given for the Club-Branch Dinner was 4th April. I explained that I had been asked, as the charismatic end of the Legion, if they could block off that date as we would be having our 90th Anniversary. I have no doubt there was a smidge of laughter for my self-appointment as “charismatic end” and they duly responded and blocked off 4th April.

It was then, and only then, that my dear friend and Membership Secretary called me, not flapping but worrying, that the date was wrong.

It was supposed to be the actual anniversary, in early February.

I went back to the church and village hall. I still had charm on my side, so explained there had been a mix-up but in positive news, they could have 4th April back, and do what they wanted with it. Indeed, they could go mad with it. So long as I could have 4th February.

No further chit-chat in their replies. All business, no banter, I could read their lowered eyebrows. They blocked off 4th February, but they might have been more impressed by me, or us, depending on how you look at it.

This is something important to know about the Legion: we don’t mince words, and we stick to our guns. We never (except for this one time), never backtrack or change our minds.

6th May. I was quite ready to throw things. I don’t know who kept changing the date, but this was the next one I was asked to run past the church and village hall. By this time, quite rightly, they had stopped responding to me. Frankly, I was quite grateful because the May idea came and went in a flash as this was, at least possibly, when we would be having the new toilet facilities fitted, and no-one wanted portapotties at the Club-Branch Dinner. It wouldn’t really fit with the suited-and-booted-and-medals-on-show atmosphere.

August had potential but it might be thorny. By this point, I decided it was nothing to do with me. I might be on the bar, but otherwise I was washing my hands of the whole affair.

That said, August would have been a terrible time of year to hold the Dinner. Everyone would be away on holiday, or home but with their own visiting family. Luckily, I was not the only one who thought of this and so they dropped the idea.

23rd September. I now realise that all the blundering about and wankery indecisiveness was due to the fact that three of our longest serving members were being honoured for their service.

Two of the three travel quite extensively across the European mainland and on cruises, and pinning them down to dates can be a nightmare.

Particularly when they are the ones who definitely have to be there but it’s a surprise, so we wind up spending months, pressing them on their availability without pushing.

It’s all done and dusted now, and we have the endlessly exciting task of finding new caterers for next year. Not a moment too soon. It’s not just the attendees going straight for the salt and pepper before they lift a fork, nor is it that the caterer’s prices have gone up when their quality hasn’t – the chicken looked as if it had already been through a cat.

If anything, the taste confirmed it.

They had some issues trying to get our new hob working. We may have broken the caterers as they’re not sure about their availability next year.

So now we have a handful of months to find new caterers; if possible, they’ll have a working knowledge of seasoning. Maybe we’ll just order takeaway.